There's a clear difference between discipline and abuseJun 28, 2000 Write an essay on this topic.
What a thorny topic! My, but opinions are strong on this one, seemingly, and I'll step right up and add mine.
My Wife and I have a three-year-old son. Does he get a spanking every now and again? Yep. Before folks start hollering, though, let me explain how this lad is punished. For one thing, we hit the boy, lightly, on the rear. We also spank him with our hands rather than relying on wooden spoons, fly swatters, paddles, Hot Wheels tracks or other items that have been suggested.
Also, the boy doesn't get spanked if one of us is angry. We have adopted this rule as, obviously, if a parent is mad at a kid while spanking him, there's a fair chance that child's going to get whopped. So, we self-limit ourselves through the use of the "No Whopping" rule. Our boy may not be too pleased that we are rarely angry with him when he misbehaves terribly, so he'll get spanked if he pushes his limits too far.
Added to the "No Whopping" rule is the "No More than Three Swats" rule. Typically, one swat is all it takes with the boy. That's usually enough to let him know he's gone to far, and to not try that typical infraction again. Well, in his case, he refrains from prohibited behaviors for a while, at least.
Also, he always knows what he's done that has prompted his parents to step up and administer a little punishment. There has never been a time when the boy has engaged in some type of "new" behavior and has been spanked for it. Take, for example, the time he started digging through my Wife's purse and found some fingernail polish. I found him happily writing on a wall with it. I said, "Boy, don't do that again, or you'll get ... a spanking." So, when he was caught a few days later doing the same thing, guess what? That's right. Spanking time for the boy, and that was preceded with the typical talk about, "You know not to do that. I told you not to do that. Why did you do that?"
Now, I realize that, in this day and age, such uses of discipline are viewed with horror by some. However, I'm not one to argue with results. My Wife and I have a wonderful child but he's too much like his parents -- headstrong and defiant. There are times when the theories that, on paper, look great just don't work. In certain moods, this lad is the type who laughs at "time-outs" being "sent to his room" and other such ineffective things.
That's not to say the child is receiving spankings on a daily basis. In fact, he might average two or three a month. Ordinarily, sending him to his room is enough. Telling him he can't play outside for an hour or two is good enough. Sometimes, though, the boy's just got to be spanked. Some parents won't accept that, and that's fine. They can raise their kids as they see fit, and it's none of my business.
I've heard some claim that "studies have shown that spanking your child will cause emotional scars that will never go away." I haven't seen those studies, and tend to rely on the judgment of my dear Mother. Mom, see, is a psychologist and was getting her doctorate when I was small.
She tells me that alternate forms of discipline looked great when she studied them, but they just didn't work on me. She'd explain why I shouldn't do something, I'd go, "Uh-huh," then I'd be back to my old tricks again without skipping a beat. Mom tells me that, when she started spanking, my attitude changed completely -- "You know, Mom, I think I see your point."
While offering my Mother's views up as evidence might not be too convincing, I can turn to theories tossed around by folks in the legal field. I practiced law for four years, and handled more than my share of juvenile cases. I'll mention that in a bit, but behaviorists studying children seem to have hit upon something -- children need to receive swift, sure punishment. Also, it has to be fair, and the child has to know why he's being punished. If all of those elements aren't present in the discipline of a child, things can go wrong.
I'll put it this way. When I was handling juvenile cases, I ran across a lot of rotten, horrible kids. And, this was largely due to the way they were raised. For example, many of them had been horribly abused and beaten by their parents, often for relatively minor infractions. The punishment they received, then, wasn't fair, and the children were often clueless about what they had done. Treat a poor child like and that, and you'd better believe they'll be angry and just itching to take their hostility out on society.
Other children had parents who didn't give a damn what they did. Of course a child raised under such conditions isn't going to behave. There's no "swift and sure" punishment there. Hell, there isn't any punishment at all. Those kids were never taught how to behave by their parents, so how else are they going to learn? I well remember one woman who sat in my office, in tears, and said, "I don't know what to do. I just can't make my child mind me." Well, woman, why should she? How pathetic is is it when a parent has a 12-year-old child who doesn't have enough respect for that parent to follow a few rules? Kids have to be reminded of those rules, and there are times that a spanking will serve as a reminder.
Like I said, though, some parents get by just fine with time-outs and such, but that doesn't always work for my child. I'm no less able to tell people how to raise their child than a goose, anyway, as it's none of my business and each kid is different. Spanking works for my child. It might not work for yours.
And, yes, I received my share of spankings as a child, as did my Wife. I can say, truly, that I never felt that my parents hated me, nor did a spanking ruin my self-esteem. I knew that if I stepped out of line, I would get into trouble, and that was the end of it.
My parents weren't ogres, and I like to think my Wife and I aren't either. Sure, the boy gets a spanking from time to time, but he always knows that we love him and, within five minutes, the boy's running around the house and is playing with his parents as usual.
So, finally, I'll just sum everything up by saying that spanking is a form of discipline that can be quite effective. However, it is our duty as parents to limit ourselves when we decide to correct our children by spanking them. A couple of swats isn't abuse, but beating the tar out a kid is.
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